CLEVELAND — The Indians’ playoff push hit a snag in today’s 2-1 loss to the New York Mets.
Cleveland managed only five hits — all singles — and closer Chris Perez gave up the go-ahead run in the ninth as the Indians’ four-game winning streak came to an end.
The Indians entered Sunday trailing Tampa Bay by a game in the battle for the second wild card spot in the American League. Cleveland was trying for its first five-game winning streak since a season-best eight-game run July 24-Aug. 1, but its offense was stopped cold by five Mets pitchers. The Indians’ only run came in the sixth when Asdrubal Cabrera was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Cabrera had a chance to put the Indians ahead in the eighth but bounced into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
The Indians had one last shot in the ninth. Jason Giambi led off the inning with a bloop single to left, his 2,000th career hit. With one out, pinch-runner Mike Aviles was thrown out attempting to steal second and ejected by umpire Gary Darling for arguing the call. Drew Stubbs struck out to end the game.
“It’s something I’ll always treasure, but I’d trade it for a win,” Giambi said of his milestone hit. “We needed to come back and tie it there.”
The Indians open a three-game series Monday against Kansas City, another contender for a wild card spot.
“We took two of three in this series, you have to look at it that way,” said pitcher Joe Smith, who worked out a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth. “We come back on the horse tomorrow. We need to take care of business when they come in.”
While the Indians are in the playoff hunt, they haven’t caught on with Cleveland’s fans. With the Browns opening the NFL season at home against Miami, Sunday’s baseball game drew a crowd of only 13,317.
Eric Young’s two-out double in the ninth sent the Indians to defeat. Juan Lagares started the rally with a single off Perez (5-3) and moved to second on a sacrifice. Omar Quintanilla struck out, but Young lined a 2-0 pitch down the right field line.
Frank Francisco (1-0), in his first appearance of the season, threw the double play ball to Cabrera. LaTroy Hawkins pitched the ninth for his eighth save.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, who spent most of the season pitching for the Indians’ Triple-A team in Columbus, Ohio, took a one-hit shutout into the sixth before literally being driven out of the game. He retired the first two batters before Jason Kipnis singled and Carlos Santana walked. Jason Kubel’s line drive back to the mound appeared to hit Matsuzaka in the chest and rolled away, loading the bases.
Mets manager Terry Collins went to the mound and pulled Matsuzaka for right-hander Vic Black, who hit Cabrera in the lower right leg with his second pitch to force in a run and tie the game.
Matsuzaka pitched poorly in his first three starts with the Mets since being signed last month, leading to speculation his days with the team were numbered. He was charged with one run in 5 2/3 innings, which should buy him some extra time with the Mets.
“He pitched an outstanding game,” Collins said. “Boy, I was really happy for him.”
Justin Turner hit a leadoff homer in the fourth off Indians starter Danny Salazar, the only run the rookie allowed in four innings. Turner was injured in the sixth while sliding into second base when he took a hard tag in the head from Cabrera. He was on the ground for a couple of minutes but stayed in the game.
Salazar struck out eight in three innings, including five in a row, but a high pitch count prevented him from working deeper into the game. He was pulled after throwing 80 pitches. The Indians don’t want to take any chances with the 23-year-old right-hander, who had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and has already pitched a career-high 130 innings between the minors and majors.
“The good thing was that he was strong, but maybe he was too strong,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He had a real hard time keeping the ball down today. Because of that his pitch count was high. He had a hard time working down today.”
NOTES: Mets’ RHP Matt Harvey (elbow) will be examined by Dr. James Andrews to determine if he needs reconstruction surgery. Harvey was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 27 with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. ... OF Michael Brantley could return to the team Monday. His wife, Melissa, gave birth to the couple’s first child Saturday night. .... Francona said RHP Justin Masterson (strained left oblique) will likely accompany the team on a road trip that begins Thursday in Chicago. It’s unclear when Masterson will resume baseball activities. ... Francisco joined the team after being recalled from a rehab assignment from Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday. He had elbow surgery in December. ... RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (10-9) faces Royals; RHP Ervin Santana (8-8). ... The Mets return home to start a four-game series with Washington on Monday. RHP Carlos Torres (3-3) meets LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-6).